Paul W. Kahn’s first sentence in his book “Out of Eden” says: “Evil makes us Human”… writing such a statement surely calls for attention! Göran Skytte’s article in SVD “Personal evil is a reality” already releases responses of people who do not believe in the personal character of evil and declare it to be metaphysics.
Every single day all of our moral sensitivities are challenged by the depth of human depravity and the tremendous scenes of deep traumatic human suffering. What kinds of world are we living in where predators go after the most vulnerable and exposed people; the children, the suffering, the young and the poor? Ethnic cleansing, suicide bombers and people in power in Burma who allow the same people they are called to lead and protect, to expose to a potential genocide?
Even the places once thought safe, like school, home, church, and small towns, have all been penetrated by an evil presence that has created a culture of fear, hatred, and blame. We are left to make sense of it all and often look for someone to blame.
There the question might come in: How does God draw near to deal with the problem of evil?
I don’t try to say that there are easy short-cut answers to be found on all aspects of human suffering as we experience it. Questions like, “why was I raped and abused as a child?”, “why did my parents have to die in a tsunami?”, or “why do the rulers in Burma allow their people to die by not allowing help to flood in?”, make it clear that there are no easy answers resolving all “why” questions. Yet as a Christian I can speak in general terms about living within the remnants of a fallen creation which is marked by chaos and disorder, and deeply disfigurement by the horrendous effects of sin’s deformation of God’s original intention (Genesis 3).
Depths of human wickedness may take various forms, “the line between good and evil is never between ‘us’ and ‘them’, the ‘poor’ and the ‘rich’ , the ‘criminal’ and the ‘saint’, or the ‘left’ and the ‘right’, but runs through the heart of every individual and every society”.
The most sensitive, the most moral and the most religious persons among us are not immune from the influence of evil. The apostle Paul acknowledges that though he “wants to do good”, evil continually to take over the best of his intentions (Romans 7:14-24). There is a constant battle for those who wish to do good, and we should never play down personal evil as if it were the problem of a few, while the rest of us are immune (Romans 3:23). There are simply no easy answers that effectively tackle the way of evil in our world.
The fact is (and we are all aware of it ): evil is not limited to the personal level: it has possessed the corporate world through greed, the political world through power and ambition, and the institutional church through preserving the appearances at the expense of people. It takes the form of social injustice that promotes racism, poverty and the marginalization of various groups.
Evil sometimes wears a suit, lives in luxurious apartments in the inner-city districts of Kungsholmen and Östermalm in Stockholm while driving their BMW, but it is also dominant in the high-rising apartment buildings in Tensta, Botkyrka or Rinkeby where new Swedes try to make themselves a living and home.
Evil can also hide behind a success driven, consumer friendly, image conscious, program based church that exists for its own sake. And, we ought not to be surprised because “even Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
So what can we learn from the Bible about God’s way of addressing the problem of evil and shattering its horrible effects? Through Jesus, God’s justice takes on human flesh as Jesus came down to the earth and encounters the effects of evil with a holiness that produces cleansing, a power that breaks down the very strongholds of evil, and a Kingdom that provided a vision of an alternative way.
His presence exposed institutional corruption, and challenged the Roman Empire with an alternative Kingdom. The climatic exhibition of Jesus’ victory over personal, cosmic and global evil comes at the cross, when dark forces come together in personal betrayal and denial, institutional terrorism and threats, and political power-games and violence.
This is the way evil works in the world, and Jesus seems to be no match before these dark and accusing forces. But when taunted to use his powers for personal deliverance he refuses to play their power-games. When he is insulted and mocked, he refuses to allow tensions by hitting back in the same spirit. Instead, he answes their evil intentions with a real call for forgiveness, that has the potential of crushing evil’s deadly grip. Yes, in the darkness of the occasion even Jesus felt somehow abandoned by God – “My God, my God why have you forsaken me” Mark 15:34. In the end it was Jesus who was in control and calling the shots. Evil had taken its best shot, but even a Roman centurion had to admit, “Surely this man was the Son of God”.
Could it be that a sign of God, a sign of change has come down in the person Jesus Christ as he broke down the personal and corporate evil in our time and age?
I believe so and that’s the Way I see it!